This is the most important book Wallace Stegner has done, and he has been marked as "a comer" ever since his memorable novelette, Remembering Laughter. The title of this novel is symbolic (the search for the promise over the mountain — frustrated dreams of power and wealth and happiness); though the mountain itself — yes, with that incredible name — is background for one brief span of happiness. Bo Mason is a flesh and blood individual; you dislike him, you are disturbed by him, you distrust him — but you feel his magnetism, you accept the inevitability of his hold to the last on those nearest to him, — Elsa, his wife, whose every dream was dimmed; Chet, his eldest son, who inherited his father's weaknesses without his strengths; Bruce, the younger boy, sensitive, too easily hurt, resentful and aware of what his father was doing to them all — but pulled back, right to the bitter, sordid end. It is a story that spans frontiers of what is virtually a contemporary picture, — Minnesota, and the Scandinavian section of good, sober farmers; Dakota, still raw frontier at the turn of the century; Saskatchewan, holding out promise of futures unrealized, and Montana, over the border, when prohibition was a provincial condition in Canada — a temptation of quick money to Bo Mason; Utah, which held them longest, though not many months in any one house; Nevada, where gambling was virtually indigenous and Bo briefly "in the money". The period brings the Masons up to the depression — when Bo eventually took the one way out, leaving his sole survivor, Bruce, with a legacy of bitter memories, and a few highlights, and some roots he'd been able to put down for himself despite the arguments of fate. It is not pleasant reading, much of it; but it is real, it is vigorous, it has moments of twisted humor, moments of tenderness, moments of beauty; and it has a holding quality that carries one through its more than 700 pages. It is one of the important novels of the Fall season.
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